The Duke’s Weekend Review

Godolphin won their first Melbourne Cup earlier this week, scoring with Cross Counter.

Trained in Britain by Charlie Appleby and ridden by Aussie native Kerrin McEvoy, Cross Counter was held up in the rear and looked like he had far too much to do down the straight. However, he picked up like a champion and ran down Marmelo close to the line. Unfortunately, rather than celebrating the victory, the race was marred by the death of The Cliffsofmoher, who was runner-up in the 2017 Derby.

Much of the social media activity and post-race news coverage was in response to this. Armchair warriors, who perhaps only ever tune into one horse race a year, ‘The Race That Stops The Nation’, frantically tapped away on their phones in self-righteous tones. They liked pictures by animal welfare groups without the faintest idea about the level of care and attention that thoroughbred racehorses receive.

For anyone divided by the death of a racehorse at the Melbourne Cup, I have a very simple argument. This is what racehorses are bred to do. They are not bred to pull carts, they are not designed to work in fields, they are not show ponies that you can let your children trot around a riding school with. They have been bred to run fast in a race.

Horses are fragile and beautiful creatures and unfortunately they do pick up injuries. Racing trainers provide almost 24/7 care to them; they give them the best of everything. In short, they are probably the best looked-after animals on the planet. It’s easy to sit on a phone and comment on social media channels, but perhaps these suddenly outraged individuals making instantaneous reactions on something they don’t really know about, should do a little research before judging an entire sport and the thousands of people who look after these horses on a daily basis.

This weekend’s UK racing centres on Wincanton. The “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase at 2.25pm is a really tricky affair, with plenty of good form coming into the race. It’s hard to rule anything out with too much certainty. One For Billy was running well in a novices race at Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago but ran-out and this may be a bit of a compensation mission. Bags Groove won at Ffos Las last time, but this looks significantly tougher. Similar sentiments are true of Majestic Moll who won a small-field mares race at Worcester. Dan Skelton has Stowaway Magic, who went off at 1/16 favourite when winning at Stratford. However, I think this race should go to Paul Nicholls.

The Ditcheat trainer has two options; Dynamite Dollars who won at Market Rasen in decent fashion last time, but perhaps more interestingly Secret Investor. The latter named won the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow last month in style and it’s fascinating that they have immediately earmarked him to go over fences. I think he could be a potential star of novice chasing this term, and if he takes to the larger obstacles, we may be looking at a viable contender on the road to Cheltenham Festival.

The Elite Hurdle at 3.00pm is all about We Have A Dream. The two-time Grade 1 winner was last seen hosing up at Aintree in April and if he picks up where he left off, then he’s got to have a big chance here. The lightly raced If The Cap Fits, former Flat performer Redicean and County Hurdle winner Mohaayed will all be there to make a real race of it, but Nicky Henderson’s We Have A Dream may be the one to follow.

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